Thursday, February 24, 2011

People matters

Moral: Wherein we continue our divergence from the slow trek for a few reflections.


People do matter (but, too, what is the matter with people?): basics thereof, issues thereon, ...


Won't mention names, but there is some controversy about a large organization (see 'The Apostate' - well-known publication, 02/14/2011) that apparently enslaves some types of people while playing up to the 'talking heads', 'writers', 'role players', and such (called celebrities) as if they are a special breed.

No doubt, some of these roles are important. But, even engineering is not the end-all; science can be stale; service can stink; and so forth.

In short, any type of work ought to be respected, even that in which King Alan partook.


Ever notice? Capitalists, and market types, like to talk the 'law' (yes, I saw it referenced that way -- it's not even a theory, folks) of comparative advantage as an important idea. And, we all know how this concept condones the races to the bottom (of the moral pit). As if, those who can colonize are the breed to which the smart (ought to) aspire (the question is still open about whether a big wallet denotes being smarter).


We'll add something about this to the on-going list of preferred characteristics (technology, knowledge, imperatives) for capitalism (if we can continue to use that term without barfing). That is, people are (ought to be) at the core of any free, and democratic, economy and its supporting society.

The discussion goes something like this:
  • If you assume equally capable players (there are many ways to address this, but think specialization in medicine -- holding off, for the moment, arguments about manual dexterity that may influence a decision to be a surgeon, then we have choices about how one's energies are spent related more to preference than any comparative ability. In fact, if someone wants to garden their own vegies, more power to them.
  • So, the issue becomes who wants to do what. In fact, some type of enlightened workplace would allow bidding, or whatever, where needed. Otherwise, people could just choose from some list of things that need to be done, or they could just do as they like (as long as there is some benefit, except during downtime -- this relates to the old notion of the idle rich).
  • As an aside, thoughtful companies spend some effort in getting people to work on projects that they want. This type of thing is possible within the framework of providing value. Yes. There is a spectrum from those doing mindless tasks (motion, etc.) under a relentless clock and beneath a whip-bearing overseer (bully, essentially -- think Chaplin's hapless guy) all the way to those whose freedom in the work environment seems to be unbounded (think IEEEs yearly survey of 'cool' jobs - or, how's this? what Harvard grads expect - by the way, is that a type of entitlement?). In the former, we can find the mostly male jobs where the workers put their lives at danger many times or the mostly female tedious small work as we see with building circuit boards. There are many examples. In the latter, look at an article (recent) about women taking over the workplace (oh yes, desk types -- who is going to do the hard, manual labor - do I need to remind everyone about where that which is on their plate came from and who did the actual work? -- twas not the middle people).
  • That spectrum of job needs does make use of differing abilities (which says something about the assumption of the first bullet) in people. Yet, working and slaving are too different things. Show us that this is not true: off-shoring allows exploitation of lower-waged workers who have few hopes of workplace improvements (stories abound around this theme). Have we not also seen that several iterations of this have been witnessed in the past 1/2 century and that jobs have moved between countries in a never-ending (seemingly) quest for more exploitees? That was because of comparative advantage?
  • Given that we could have universal, implying mutual, respect for those who labor (see classism's hold on the monied), all tasks fulfilled would reap some reward, even rewards of the psyche-enhancing type (oh, not talking commune here, rather the ultimate 'green' approach that would preserve life and the planet and more). And, service? All of the youngsters would spend some time doing something useful for the commonweal.
  • The current thrust toward entrepreneurship is partly on course (too much emphasis on hitting the big time and bucks, one might think). Yet, basic science cannot use that. Nor can engineering (think the costs of developing a new plane, for instance). No, it belongs to that realm (nebulous, and having less value than many believe) of finance, computing, and such that are now exhibiting way out-of-proportion gains (assuming that the term applies).
  • ...
Incomplete list, by design. As, discussing an economic model of n-dimensional folks (way beyond mere rational agents) in a multi-colored world will be formidable, indeed. Yet, it's worth the effort to get the notion some attention.


04/04/2011 -- Boston U's opinion.

02/27/2011 -- Rick Bookstaber's thoughts on the premise of rational agency.

Modified: 04/04/2011

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